antidote: how God’s perfect love helps cast out fear

antidote - sos - love as the remedy for our beleaguered souls @poetryjoy.com

Hello Dear Friends, we are living in strange times, aren’t we? Nothing feels as safely familiar as before because we’re all having to adjust to a new “normal” as we adapt to living with the threat of the coronavirus and its worldwide impact for ourselves and our nations.

It’s a new, unstructured way of living we’re not accustomed to, and don’t care to experience for long. We’re having to be imaginative and proactive to help conquer our fears because this virus casts a weighty shadow over everything, especially with alarmist news reports.

So how do we cope when the life we knew before alters by the day? To assist with lessening anxiety, it helps to focus on the positive, and on what we can do rather than what we can’t. These things are helping me: praying, breathing deeply and slowly, meditating, exercising gratitude, resting, and keeping a sense of perspective.

I’m also looking to God as my major means of soul help and support. God’s love is the antidote to fear and the answer to all inner restlessness and dis-ease. It’s the healing balm we need to comfort our sad and sorrowing souls. It’s the anchor of our lives, the compass of Hope our hearts long for.

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us….There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” — 1 John 4:18 The Message

antidote - virus - hearts - God's love is the antidote quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

God’s love provides the safety valve and soul exhale we need in swirling seas of uncertainty. It’s freely given, available to all, and abundantly nourishing for our souls. God’s love triggers remembrance of His faithfulness to us in the past and His sustaining grace available for us now.

Antidote

As the days segue into sameness
yet feel strangely unfamiliar to us,
can you see, can you believe
that what nourishes and sustains
us, deep in our souls, is holy love?

It is the antidote we seek,
the destroyer of anxiety, fear
and hate, the balm for every
chaotic change, every virus
that eats its way into our hearts.

Love came to earth in the shape
of an infant boy’s messy birth,
crying out for us to see his worth
while we open our arms, our eyes,
our minds and hearts to his love.

It calls us now to pay attention
and to fix our eyes more on its
solution to sin and sickness, to all
dis-ease of the human heart,
rather than allowing fear to build up.

If we can lift our heads and listen
to the sound of love seeping through
the filter of our souls, we might find
a different kind of focus taking place
as we surrender to peace and grace.
© joylenton

Antidote poem (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Do let me know how you are managing. I’m praying for all my readers and friends. You might like to check out my timely book Embracing Hope: Soul Food to Help Chase Away the Blues which is free on Kindle today. May God bless you and meet all your needs as He surrounds you with His all-encompassing care, comfort, protection and love. ❤

oak: for when you want to mimic a tree

“Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss’ of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

When we feel burdened, weary and depleted in body, mind or spirit, it can produce a kind of dull lethargy inside. Then, as we listen to what it has to say to us, we gradually start to sense a deeper message within our souls.

The loving voice of Holy Spirit speaks louder than our sadness and softer than our shame. God is calling us to pay attention and seek His help and strength. He longs to rescue us and set us back on a more positive pathway again.

Our desire to feel different, better, stronger assumes a greater urgency than our problems and pain. It cannot easily be ignored. We long for resolution and begin by seeking it in the best place we know: In prayer. From listening to our heart’s deepest needs, we turn our souls Christ-ward and lay these burdens at His feet.

Like an oak

let me be
sturdy, strong, unbending
like an oak tree
rooted deep into the earth
facing storms unperturbed

let me sit
as my heart steadily ticks
and take a deep breath
exhale anxiety and fear
with my burdened soul laid bare

let me stay
this painful course I am on
where life shades to grey
may I still emanate
holy hope, grace and strength

let me lean
and sway so I do not break
nor depend on me
but trust in God’s saving love
when I feel inadequate

let me sink
much deeper into Christ
inhale his strength
spreading faith leaves everywhere
with healing, support and prayer
© joylenton

“To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” – Isaiah 61:3 AMPC – [emphasis added]

You can discover more about the metaphysical meaning of an oak tree here and read about how weakness can coexist with strength here. 🙂 ❤

oak - like an oak tree poem excerpt - let me be sturdy, strong, unbending (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

waves: seeing sacredness in everyday things

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” – Thomas Merton

A holy kind of noticing takes place when we view creation’s glory through a lens of faith and grace. Especially the minor things we might have otherwise overlooked. They begin to stand out for us as portents of promise, signs of beauty and praise, and messages of God’s love and grace. Will you pause a while to appreciate this with me?

waves - clouds - rural landscape - sky - trees - If we are to know life in all its fullness quote @poetryjoy.com

Sacred waves

Oh the calm, calm waves of sky
reaching out to me in scattered, skeined
arms of pale, muted grey cloud

singing out their love, revealing how
the deepest act of devotion
I might be capable of this day, this moment

maybe, is to simply watch and wonder,
pray, and absorb the gift they bring,
give thanks for my life, this offering.

Because here and now are the most
important moments I exist,
in which to sense a holy invitation

to see, touch and taste, to focus on
the divine aspects, the holy,
wholesome sacredness of this

oh so ordinary, fleeting, minor
moment when God chooses
to remind me of his presence,

and then to stretch out my fingertips,
to say yes, I will look, I will listen,
and I will receive your love and grace.

I will take this offering as a sign
of hope, and I will secure
it fast within my insecure heart,

to take out and examine again
on darker days, when light and joy
seem so very far away,

and I will recall the preciousness
of my soul’s brief noticing,
as a harbinger of light and spring.
© joylenton

“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” – Martin Luther

slowed: hope for times when you feel sidelined

“Our rest lies in looking to the Lord, not to ourselves.” – Watchman Nee

Slowed

There have been times when I
wanted to be empowered
and equipped beyond my calling.

In my mind’s eye I have seen
myself doing better and brighter things
by your anointing and grace.

So it challenges and confuses me
when you say: No. Stop. Pause.
Wait. Rest. Not now. Not yet.

Waiting and waiting is hard
on a restless spirit which
longs to just Get On With It!

But to me, and to all whom you
call to come aside and abide,
it is a sacred call to obey.

May I remember this
if my soul resists and my mind
protests it’s ready for more.

Let me bow myself instead
to your greater knowledge
of what I can do for you now.

You alone know how this
life of mine should be shaped
with Holy Spirit’s help.

And only you can grant
all restless, fidgety souls
the ability to lean closer still.

Would you do that here, now,
in times of anxiety or haste,
so we follow your purpose and ways?

Would you help us to see how
moments of silent, small and slow
enable us to learn and grow?
© joylenton

Most of us hate having to slow down, so we either wait until we crash or we keep plodding on until exhaustion or illness forces us to stop and slow down. Then we itch to return to whatever we were engaged in before we paused. Or is that just me?

slowed - tree - branches - leaves - Instead of feeling sidelined quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

But what if we could look at it differently? Instead of feeling sidelined, we could try to view slowed down time as an invitation to rest and abide with Christ. Maybe God just wants YOU for now, your attentive presence, not what you can do for Him.

Because He values our attention and companionship above our activities and To Do list. Spending quality time with God is never a waste, rather, it’s a way to become refreshed for what lies ahead.

“God’s love is based on nothing, and the fact that it is based on nothing makes us secure. Were it based on anything we do, and that ‘anything’ were to collapse, then God’s love would crumble as well. But with the God of Jesus no such thing can possibly happen. People who realize this can live freely and to the full.” ― Brennan Manning, The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus

slowed - Would you help us to see how quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

nature: its ability to calm and heal our souls

nature - its ability to calm and heal our souls - robin on grass (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Few sights are as cheering to winter-weary hearts than spotting a red-breasted robin in the garden. They are welcome visitors who cannot help but make us smile because of their lively hue and perky hopping.

In the English countryside, robins feature heavily in our sightings for large parts of the year. They’ve also inspired today’s poem, which was prompted by thoughts of my daughter-in-law.

She’s a keen gardener who often finds solace (and a necessary distraction from her busy business life) when she’s outside, getting her hands dirty with tasks. Being in touch with living plants helps shift vestiges of SAD-induced sadness in her heart.

The robin

Water-logged and rimed with frost,
sodden leaves get trodden underfoot
as she makes her way across
the uneven garden path.

Her heart sinks as low as her boots
as she contemplates the work
before her—clearing cluttered ground,
preparing for winter to fully come.

As her spade sinks in, she glances
up and sees a robin hopping
around, close by but no longer
shy or uncertain, more a bold thing.

She smiles at her avian
companion, who had graced
the garden in summertime
with brief glimpses now and then.

No longer intent on nest building
or family, she hops contentedly,
pausing to check on her human
friend who she converses with.

Maybe this is no coincidence
in these colder months, with their
depressing, darkening days and drizzle,
that she would appear by chance.

Perhaps there’s hidden symbolism
here, as her furry friend is known
to signal spiritual rebirth,
the new, divine, and the next.

Work stops for now as her mind
follows that thought, making space
for a sign from God to lift her
heart in these chilly wintry months.
© joylenton

We each try to find a way to help alleviate the darkness that can inhabit our hearts. Sometimes, just reading about nature helps. I’m dipping into ‘The Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us – A Diary’ by Emma Mitchell and finding it comforting.

I know I feel so much better when I can get outside, even briefly, and surround myself with nature’s natural sedative, calming effects, instead of sitting indoors brooding about my problems.

nature - countryside - grass - sky - trees - natural sedative effects quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Also, looking out the window or watching nature programmes is enough to temporarily plug the “craving to be outside” gap which M.E and chronic illness tend to leave in their wake.

While many of us in the northern hemisphere struggle with wintry ills and chills, may we aim to encourage ourselves with remembrance of God’s faithfulness to us in the past. Let’s keep signs of spring and flames of hope alive in our hearts. Because that’s how we survive and thrive during hard times.

May listening to this robin singing help make you smile, and give you hope that winter’s grip on your environment  or mind will ease soon. 🙂

How have you experienced nature’s calming or healing effects? Do share in the comments below... ❤

nature - robin on a fence - Let’s keep signs of spring quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

loved: you can rest in being the beloved of God

loved - you can rest in being the beloved of God - hearts - mailbox @poetryjoy.com

Love is in the air, you hope, as you eagerly check your physical and digital mailboxes for signs suggesting you are loved. Perhaps you’re hoping to hear from that one special person whose devotion means so much to you, if only they would let you know?

Maybe you are nursing a broken heart as you sit grieving for the love you have lost? Or you feel lonely, distant from family and friends, wondering if anyone thinks of you now and then. Perhaps life has wounded you, given you deep inner pain and a growing unease because you think you don’t deserve the kind of love you want to receive?

loved - being the beloved - father and son - two voices compete quote by Henri Nouwen @poetryjoy.com

However this day finds you, my friend, may you be encouraged by knowing you are very much seen, paid attention to, and devotedly loved 24/7, year in year out by God. He longs for you and I to sense His loving presence and love Him back.

God yearns for us to know that even if we’re rejected by the world, unwanted by our families or distant from anyone who truly cares for us, He is here. He waits for us with deep longings in His heart. God has cherished us since before our birth. You are special to Him just because you exist.

loved - baby's hand in father's palm - God has cherished us quote @poetryjoy.com

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed  body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” — Psalms 139: 13-16 NIV

Crafted with love

I read the words,
scanning all too quickly,

and then I pause
as I allow them to sink in.

They tell me I am seen, noticed
by God, deliberately made,

lovingly shaped before my birth,
I’m given love, value and worth.

Knowing my own history,
the way I came into the world

was not the best—born too early
and unwanted by my family.

They brought me up
with great strain and stress,

more than lavish love and grace
or tender care and kindness.

Maybe you, too, sense
a kind of disconnect

and fail to love yourself
because you’ve been rejected?

Maybe you have also known
the painful sting of not fitting in,

how you felt like a lost stranger
and yet you longed to belong,
to be at home in your own home?

May we take comfort from this:
that our existence is not a mistake
for we are unconditionally loved

by God, and enabled to rise above
the shame and pain of our past.
© joylenton

loved - one child comforting another - may we take comfort quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

May you know how very special you are, dear one. Simply because you exist. God calls you His beloved. Have a listen to the Father’s Love Letter that was written for you. Let the words sink deep into your heart. Because you are known. You are cherished. You are unconditionally loved, today and always. ❤ ❤

connections: why they are vital for the health of our souls

connections - hands reaching across the world

There is nothing quite as reassuring to our souls than to know we are not alone with our world view, thoughts, pain and hurts. And if we can find close connections with our family, friends, neighbours or those who live far from us, then that is a great gift to treasure.

It is one we need more than ever when life gets tough, our focus is fractured, social media “friends” might be anything but, and real life friends can disappear at the drop of a hat. Everyone is so busy and hard pressed that it takes real commitment to stay in touch.

My years of internet life and blogging have been greatly enriched by making close connections and friendships with others. It’s one of the things I miss most when I need to pull back due to health relapses.

I cherish hearing from those who maintain contact with me when I’m out of action and particularly unwell. Because we could all use friends who keep the faith and do not give up on us.

It’s when we’re more adrift than usual due to chronic illness, extra health challenges or excess pressure that we really value the connections we have with others and with God. Our relationship with God especially acts as an anchor for our restless souls and a life raft to cling to when we feel lost and alone. 

Making connections

Across the curve
of this sprawling earth,
through different time zones,

straddling deep oceans,
instant communication comes
across the vast continents,
and hope gets birthed.

It comes from close
connection forged across
the pond, home to home,
where hand holds hand,

where hearts beat as one
and prayers ascend
to our online friends
via the Father’s throne.

We discover others
who think like us,
whose souls are in harmony,

united in the bond of humanity,
criss-crossing the world
with ease via our screens,
revealing expressions of love.

This great privilege
enables us to visit
without boundaries of time,
distance and space,

as we bring companionship
to our isolated, lonely friends
and receive a joy and peace
which nothing can transcend.
© joylenton

connections - earth - globe - network - making connections poem excerpt (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com

Wouldn’t it be good if what unites us proves to be stronger than what divides us? I’m praying it will be so as my country begins to live with the outcomes of Brexit. And for the world as a whole so that greater harmony and peace might result.

Maybe if we realised that reaching out with understanding, compassion, grace and love was preferable to distancing ourselves because we cannot all agree on something, maybe we could rediscover the joys of making life enhancing connections with one another. PS: My poetic friend, Jenneth Graser, has written a beautiful prayer for connection here.

connection people in a circle - Wouldn't it be good if what unites us proves to be stronger than what divides us quote (C) joylenton @poetryjoy.com